by Judy Ferro
“Now that we live in an “alternative fact” world the Raiders just won the Super Bowl!!!!!!!!!!”
“Mom, it’s not cheating, it’s “alternative studying”!”
Within hours of Kellyanne Conway’s description of the White House’s claims about attendance at the Trump inauguration as “alternative facts”, the term was a Facebook fixture, had a Wikipedia page with 40 references, and was declared an “early contender for euphemism of the year” by the Boston Globe.
Lies have long been a part of politics—Machiavelli said as much in 1513 AD. Columnist Dustin McKissen recently pointed out several instances of leaders using alternative facts, including “Kennedy’s insistence that troops were merely serving as advisors [in Viet Nam], Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin incident, and Richard Nixon’s claim that he did not sabotage the 1968 peace talks.” He added President George W. Bush’s claims of “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq.
Many generalizations true in some cases but not for the majority come close to being “alternative facts.”
Increasing the minimum wage causes people to lose their jobs. (Many states have seen the opposite. Even cities have increased their minimum wage and seen job growth that neighboring cities didn’t.)
Illegal immigrants are criminals and don’t pay taxes. (The vast majority of illegals make a real effort to avoid being noticed.)
Public schools aren’t as good as they used to be. (Students are mastering a far more structured and detailed curricula than in my day.)
People could afford health insurance if they felt it was a priority. (For a family, insurance can cost as much as rent and food combined.)
Right now we have Republicans in Boise claiming we must decrease taxes if we want to attract and retain businesses—even though a recent state said 40 states have higher taxes than we do, even though the tax decreases are miniscule for the small businesses that create most of our jobs, even though some states have increased job growth after raising taxes and increasing investment in infrastructure and schools.
Yet, “selective facts” are not the blatant lies that “alternative facts” are.
Tobacco companies concealed in-house research while deny any relationship between smoking and lung cancer.
Investment houses, fearing that certain stocks were tanking, claimed they were great buys for their customers.
Manufacturers took out ads with glowing—and false—descriptions of working conditions in their Asian factories.
And oil companies launched “institutes” to deny Global Warming even as they bid on drilling rights in the North Sea that would have no value if the ice didn’t melt.
This week “alternative facts” generated by oil company largess resulted in the chair of the Idaho House Environment, Energy & Technology committee refusing to schedule a hearing on climate change. According to an Idaho Statesman article, Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, said climate change is merely a fraud; volcanoes contribute more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than people do; carbon dioxide is good for plants; climate change has always been with us; and there is nothing we can do about it. Former House minority leader John Rusche responded, “I think that a hearing on the effects on Idaho’s forests, water supply, fire risks, wildlife, potential change in world markets and transportation, energy production and transmission all are legitimate legislative issues.”
Thirty-seven states are working on climate-change plans. Thirty-seven. But not Idaho.
With alternative facts so common, why are President Trump’s causing such a ballyhoo? Because his are so easily disproved? Because everyone loves being a comic? Or, perhaps, because people are starting to fear he believes them?
Image courtesy of memetic.net.